I’m going to save you some time and tell you that Ghost in the Shell is not very good. Instead I’ll give my quick thoughts and I want to talk more about anime adaptations in general. The word I’d use to describe this movie is BORING. For a movie that’s supposed to be a scifi action movie it really doesn’t have all that much action and the action scenes they did have were underwhelming and pointless. It’s almost like they blew their entire visual effects budget on creating this amazing looking city but forgot to leave anything for the action sequences. For an adaptation and I use that term lightly here, all they really do is just take the iconography of the original 1995 anime movie but don’t translate any of the themes or plot. They try to raise some of the philosophical themes and questions of what makes us humans but never follows up on them and the movie devolves into the tired evil corporate conspiracy plot. They pick and choose certain scenes and elements copy them shot for shot but they’re thrown in out of order and even worse, out of context. At the end of the day I wondered what audience were they making this movie for?
Should You See It?: No
Theater Worthy: No
Final Grade: D
I want to take the rest of this post to talk about anime adaptations in general because Hollywood has been atrocious at this with catastrophes like Dragonball Evolution and I’m even going to throw in Avatar The Last Airbender. As mentioned above the people behind these movies don’t seem to have a clear understanding of what they wanted to do with them. When studios set out to make anime adaptations what audience are they trying to attract to their movie? They clearly aren’t making it for the fans of the original anime since they seem to want to remove or change everything that made the anime popular and they’re not making it for the general public since they still like to include references and scenes that only fans of the original would even recognize or appreciate.
First thing I would say is figure out what you want to do! If you want to make a movie that will please the fans then adapt the anime as faithfully as you can and keep the essence and themes of the original. Ghost in the Shell got a great deal of flak for whitewashing by casting a white actress as a Japanese character. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that decision but then they left in a good amount Asian elements in the film and you even see the Major converse with her boss, who only speaks Japanese while she speaks English, This makes no sense what so ever… Why include certain iconic scenes/elements from the anime if they make no sense in your adapted version? The general audience isn’t going to see that and think anything of it and the fans are going to think that’s cool to see but confused why it’s there out of context.
Here’s my suggestion for anime adaptations going forward, go all in one way or the other. If you’re going to make an adaptation then make it a faithful adaptation, capture the themes, plot and characters from the anime and bring them to life on the big screen. Cast it with people that look and can perform like the characters they are based on. Don’t pick and choose to eliminate the Asian cultural elements whether it’s the cast, the setting or the themes. This way you’ll get a great movie that will hopefully please the fans of the original and possibly draw in new fans. If that’s not possible and you wanted to create a movie with mass appeal for the US then take the idea and concept of the movie and completely create a new movie around that. I would even go far as to say call it something different altogether so you don’t even have people trying to compare it to the original. Change the setting to a more American place, cast all the white people you want and take all the Asian cultural aspects and appropriate it to fit in the world of that movie. A good example of this is the US version of the horror movie The Ring. All they did was take the base concept of a journalist investigating a cursed video that kills anyone that watches it and set it in the US, change all the characters and adjust all the Asian elements. The movie turned out to be a very good adaptation of a Japanese movie.
In the end this is a problem of Hollywood studios trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want to use the name recognition and built in fan base of some famous property but then dumb the movie down and take out everything about the series that made it popular in the first place. If Hollywood wants to make an anime movie successful, studios should commit to a vision one way or the other either a faithful adaptation or a completely reimagined film based on the concepts of the original. Seriously, you already had a good movie that was popular why would you change it and make more work for yourself!?